PBS Is Creating a Channel Exclusively for Children
PBS is starting a new 24-hour channel dedicated solely to children’s programming.The channel, which will be called PBS Kids and will be announced on Tuesday, will be free. It is expected to debut later this year — most likely in the fall. PBS Kids will also be available online with a live stream.
More children’s programming is available than ever, much of it being watched through streaming services and on-demand.Netflix has significantly increased its children’s offerings in recent years, and it is expected to have 35 original series for children by year’s end.
Last month, HBO began broadcasting the latest season of “Sesame Street,” after it took over first-run rights for the series from PBS. HBO has said more children’s programming is coming, and Amazon has also produced shows aimed at that demographic.
PBS will use the channel to broadcast popular shows already on its stations, like “Daniel Tiger’s Neighborhood,” “Dinosaur Train” and “Wild Kratts.”PBS Kids will exist as a subchannel. Other PBS subchannels include World (which airs mostly documentaries) and Create (which broadcasts shows dedicated to topics like cooking and travel). PBS said the children’s channel was not created with a hope of lifting fund-raising efforts, despite the recent loss of the first-air rights to “Sesame Street.”
“This is not designed in and of itself as a fund-raising effort,” said Paula Kerger, the chief executive of PBS.
The broadcaster said the new channel would be distinguished from other children’s programming for the same reason PBS’s programming has always stood out: It is free, with an emphasis on educational content.
“There’s a huge distinction between the content that’s available through other media providers and PBS,” said Lesli Rotenberg, the broadcaster’s general manager of children’s programming. “Even though there may be more, there isn’t necessarily more educational content for kids.”
PBS said that its live stream would also offer educational game opportunities for children. Ms. Rotenberg said that PBS’s online games received twice as many page views and significantly more users than videos.
The idea for PBS Kids arose, in part, because children are watching programs all day, not just in the morning and after school.
“The challenge is when a lot of kids are available to be watching, we are broadcasting other things like the ‘NewsHour,’ ” Ms. Kerger said. “There are a lot of children, particularly that are home in early prime time, we aren’t able to accommodate them except for on-demand. Given the fact that there are so many kids where on-demand is not an option, we want to be able to reach those kids.”
PBS was once in business with Comcast for the 24-hour children’s channel called Sprout (the two are no longer connected). Ms. Kerger said that partnership was when PBS learned that there was also a valuable place for children’s programming in prime time.
“The assumption was that after 6 at night there wasn’t as much an appetite for kids’ content,” she said. “Actually, deep into prime time, there are still a lot of kids watching television. There is an interesting phenomenon that parents talk about that the time they want public television content is during early evening hours when everyone is just getting home, and they’re trying to make dinner, and we’re not there.”